KATHMANDU, June 3: The Election Commission's announcement to go for re-election in Bharatpur is inappropriate, wrong and ill-intended, opposition parties and even some partners in the ruling coalition said as they blasted the election body's “biased decision” to settle the disputes over the torn ballot papers.
After a week of indecision, the EC on Saturday declared it is going to conduct reelection in ward 19 of Bharatpur Metropolis where vote counting was stalled in the final stage after some CPN (Maoist Center) cadres torn some ballot papers.
The EC said its decision to invalidate the votes in the disputed ward was based on objective analysis of ground reports, legal provisions and past decisions.
The decision was welcomed by the leaders of the ruling Nepali Congress and CPN (Maoist Center). They claimed that the re-election decision had come in accordance with the elections laws.
But several other parties including the main opposition UML, Rastriya Prajatantra Party and Naya Shakti Nepal lambasted the election body.
They claim that the EC's decision has opened up a Pandora's Box that could potentially undermine the credibility of the elections in the future. They said that it would be difficult for the EC to hold free and fair elections.
“The Election Commission's decision is unfortunate and ill-intended. It has set a bad precedent,” said UML Secretary Yogesh Bhattarai. The UML had been demanding the resumption of vote counting after invalidating the torn ballot papers.
UML leaders claim that the ballot papers were deliberately torn into pieces as a part of a well thought-out plan to invalidate the election results after CPN Maoist Center mayoral candidate's defeat became imminent.
Prime Minister Pushpa Kamal Dahal's daughter Renu Dahal is Maoist's mayoral candidate in Bharatpur. Until the counting process was stalled last Sunday night, UML candidate Devi Gyawali was leading with small margin.
Talking to reporters after the party's parliamentary party meeting on Saturday, UML chairman KP Sharma Oli said the EC's decision was misguided. He said the decision was taken under pressure and influence of the ruling parties and the government.
"This decision to encourage those involved in an election offense does not suit democratic norms and values," Oli said.
Rastriya Prajatantra Party Chairman Kamal Thapa said the decision was “inappropriate and wrong”. In multiple twitter messages, Thapa said that the EC should have punished those who tore the ballot papers, invalidate the torn ballot papers and resume vote counting. Thapa claimed that the culture of political appointment and political patronage was the reason for “such an unfortunate decision”.
“Judicial and constitutional bodies are becoming the helpless shadows of political parties due to nomination of office-bearers based on political patronage. Bharatpur reelection is just an example,” said Thapa.
Former Prime Minister Baburam Bhattarai said that the EC's decision could have grave repercussions in the electoral politics. In a twitter massage, Bhattarai brought a popular Nepali adage in context to signal that the EC's decision had set a wrong precedent and raised fresh questions about the future of democracy.
The decision looks set to further polarize the already polarized political atmosphere. The UML has announced to protest against the decision and seek legal remedy against the decision. UML leaders said that the party would disrupt the house on Sunday which could potentially affect the election of the Prime Minister in the House. UML's sister organization including the student union took to streets on Saturday in Kathmandu and Bharatpur to protest against the decision.